🌊 Biden’s Memory Examined

PLUS: Disney creating a Fortnite world?

The first “Debate of the Week” is in the books…

…and it was a breath of fresh air. Thank you to all of you who submitted responses, responses to the responses, and responses to the responses to the responses. You all offered insights and perspectives we hadn't seen on social media and certainly not on the legacy news websites that we reluctantly read every day. We can't wait to continue with this format and explore so many more issues, ranging from “Are hot dogs sandwiches?” to “Should the government forgive student debt?” We need answers!

In today's edition:

🎮 Disney invests in Fortnite

😳 A college cancels a bondage class

🤔 Roca's Weekly Debate

And so much more!

–Max, Max, Jen, and Alex

Cinderella’s Glass…Combat Boots?

Disney invested $1.5B in “Fortnite” maker Epic Games as part of a bid to create a “new universe” based around both brands

  • Since launched in 2017, Fortnite has remained one of the world’s most popular video games. It recently launched joint ventures with Lego and the creator of Rocket League, another popular game

  • On Wednesday, Disney announced it will invest in Epic and create a new “universe” with Fortnite in which users could “play, watch, shop, and engage with” Disney characters

  • Disney called the venture – release date TBD – its “biggest entry ever into the world” of video games

Dig Deeper

  • The move is an attempt by Disney to capitalize on the success of Fortnite and the rapid growth of the video game industry

  • Disney has already partnered with Fortnite in the past, including with an entire Marvel-themed season

Ukraine Fires Top General

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky ousted his top general in the most significant shake-up since Russia’s invasion

  • General Valerii Zaluzhnyi had served as Ukraine’s commander-in-chief since 2021. His popularity soared after Ukraine repelled Russia’s invasion and then launched a successful counteroffensive, although it has declined as the war has turned into a stalemate

  • On Thursday, Zelensky – who reportedly sees Zaluzhnyi as a future political rival – replaced him with another general, citing a need for “urgent changes”

Dig Deeper

  • Differences between the duo spilled into the open late last year, when Zaluzhnyi told The Economist the war had become a "stalemate” akin to the First World War. Zelensky had always refused to use that term, claiming it aids Russia’s cause

  • Around that time, a December 2023 poll found that 88% of Ukrainians trusted Zalluzhnyi, versus 62% for Zelensky

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Dig Deeper

Bolsonaro: Victim or Plotter?

A Brazilian court ordered former president Jair Bolsonaro to surrender his passport

  • Bolsonaro lost Brazil’s presidential election in 2022 but refused to concede, alleging voter fraud. He has since been barred from running and made the subject of several criminal investigations

  • On Thursday, Brazilian police arrested several of Bolsonaro’s aides while a court accused Bolsonaro of plotting a coup. It cited the former leader of Brazil’s Navy as telling Bolsonaro he could “put troops on the ground” to support him

  • “I left the government more than a year ago and I continue to suffer relentless persecution," Bolsonaro said following the accusation

Dig Deeper

  • Brazilian prosecutors are also investigating Bolsonaro for allegedly falsifying his vaccination certification, encouraging riots in January 2023, and spying on political rivals, including journalists and judges

Biden: Memory “Limitations”

The prosecutor investigating President Biden’s handling of classified documents declined to charge him but acknowledged “limitations” in his memory

  • In 2023, Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed special counsel Robert Hur to investigate classified documents found at Biden’s home. Hur released his report on Thursday

  • The report said Biden had willfully retained sensitive docs and offered them to a writer, but said those offenses don’t merit criminal charges. He cited Biden’s “hazy” memory and how the defense could use “limitations” in Biden’s memory as a defense at trial

Dig Deeper

  • “He did not remember when he was vice president, forgetting on the first day of the interview when his term ended (‘if it was 2013 — when did I stop being Vice President?’), and forgetting on the second day of the interview when his term began (‘in 2009, am I still Vice President?),” the report said

  • “He did not remember, even within several years, when his son Beau died,” it added

  • Biden’s office called the comments “inappropriate.” Biden said he was distracted during the interviews on Oct. 8 and 9, as “Israel had just been attacked” and he was “handling an international crisis”

Some Quick Stories for the Office

🇺🇸 Five US Marines who went missing while flying a helicopter from Nevada to San Diego are dead, US officials said. The crew was conducting a training exercise when the helicopter crashed east of San Diego. An investigation into the crash is underway

🐴 Self-help author Marianne Williamson dropped out of the Democratic presidential primary after winning less than 4% of the vote in the first three primaries. With her out, Representative Dean Phillips (D-MN) remains President Biden’s last major opponent

🇮🇶 Calls by Iraqi politicians to expel US troops from the country have intensified following the latest US airstrike in the country. The US stations ~2,500 troops in Iraq, whose official role is to assist Iraq’s efforts to fight ISIS. A spokesperson to Iraq’s prime minister said the US “has become a factor for instability and threatens to entangle Iraq in the cycle of conflict”

🤖 The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) declared the use of AI-generated voices in robocalls to be illegal. The announcement came after thousands of New Hampshire voters received a robocall from a voice imitating President Biden that urged them not to vote. Some scam victims have also reported to police that scammers imitated their loved one’s voice

🌍 Keir Starmer, leader of the UK’s left-wing Labour Party, cut the scope of his party’s climate agenda by 83%. Labour had formerly promised £28B ($35.3B) in annual climate spending if elected, but facing concerns about financing that, reduced it to just £4.7B ($5.9B)

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Weekly Debate

We’re tried something new this week. Most news companies repress ideas they don’t agree with. We are different. To prove it, we made this newsletter a place where people can have a free and open debate. Each day, we asked you, our readers, to respond to other readers’ responses. Today we have this week’s final installment. We can’t wait to do this all again on Monday!

This week’s discussion:

Is technology advancing too quickly? Who should set the pace?

Here are reader responses to V and Mike, whose takes we shared in yesterday’s Current.

Kelly from New Mexico: “I have to agree with both V from Texas and Mike from Cottonwood CA.  The common theme is that humans are basically weak and easily amused and distracted, if I am to understand.  I absolutely agree.  Humans want the next best thing without thinking about how technology is going to affect us in the future.  We are going to be responsible for our own demise in so many ways, not just this.”

Josh from Iowa: “I agree that not all advancements should be made, just because we can do it should not mean we need to. I think we need to look at the Star Wars universe and see that they are very advanced in some areas like space travel, medicine, and whatnot, but in other areas they are not. I think Star Wars should be a guideline as to how we should advance, we need to maintain our humanity and promote real face to face socializing so that we can live in peace.”

Thank you to all of you who submitted responses! Let us know by replying to this email: What topic should Roca debate next?

Today's Poll:

Do you know what the word chauvinist means?

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

Some Quick Stories for Happy Hour

🗼 Roll Radio Tower: Thieves in Alabama stole a 200-foot radio tower located behind a processing plant. Police are currently investigating the theft

⛳️ Mr. 57: Chilean pro golfer and Florida State alum Cristobal Del Solar – ranked 259th worldwide – shot a 13-under-par 57 in Colombia, marking the lowest round ever recorded in a PGA Tour-sanctioned event

😳 50 shades of grades: Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) canceled a student class on bondage techniques – including erotic aspects – due to parental objections

🍿 Not all fun and slime: Investigation Discovery has released a trailer for “Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV,” a four-part docuseries exposing the alleged toxic culture of late-1990s Nickelodeon sets

🦂 Stinging souvenir: 12 days after returning from her horse-riding trip to Kenya, an Irish woman found a fat-tailed scorpion in her luggage

🏆 Move over, Taylor Swift: 32-year-old Colombian singer-songwriter Karol G will receive the 2024 woman of the year award at the Billboard Women in Music Awards in Los Angeles on March 6

Roca in Liberland

We send our co-founder Max Frost to investigate topics around the world and he writes about them here. He’s currently writing from Liberland. Subscribers receive the full stories.

Liberland: Its residents pitch it as a visionary, utopian place open to freedom-loving people around the world. In practice, it’s a campsite on a sandy island in the Danube. 

When I arrived, a handful of people were sitting around a fire while others worked on building some kind of sand structure. There were no permanent structures. A generator provided power and a Starlink satellite Wi-Fi.

There were around ten people there, all “settlers” who had come to build Liberland. They were from France, the UK, Norway, Portugal, Croatia, and the Czech Republic, and ranged in age from 18 to their 50s. One man, from England, had been deported from Croatia 31 days ago, banned from the country for 30 days, and returned on the morning of my arrival. 

There are a few ways to get Liberland citizenship. 

You can either make a donation of $5,000-$10,000 in money or goods; provide some kind of valuable service to Liberland; or become a settler.

Settlers spend 25 days in Liberland. If they stay the whole time and manage to build at least a semi-permanent structure, they are given a deed to the land. Settlers are also paid: Just by working the land, a settler can make around 3,000 euros a month. They can take up to half of that in cash. The rest is paid in “merits,” Liberland’s (crypto)currency. 

The money comes from people buying citizenship or ideologically-inclined people who “sponsor” a settler. Liberland then uses that money to pay settlers, expanding the “population” and enticing more people to buy citizenship. A skeptic would say it’s a Ponzi scheme; an optimist would say it’s a smart way to build a country.

At any given time, up to a couple dozen “settlers” are on the island. Other Liberlanders, like my guides Dorian and Wilson, live in nearby towns and come to Liberland a few times during the week. Most Liberlanders are not present in Liberland or even in Croatia, but are supporters living normal lives around the world. 

Settlers are assigned a plot of land in the forest and, using supplies they bring themselves, have to build a structure on it. They split their time at Liberland working on their own plot and building – or relaxing at – the central settlement, where I was. 

Upon arrival, I was quickly told that the current version of Liberland is brand new.

The Czech libertarian Vit Jedlička declared Liberland’s “independence” in 2015. In the years after that, Vit and others kept trying to plant a flag on the island, but the police kept interfering. Eventually, Vit’s supporters established a libertarian village on the Serbian side of the Danube while they plotted how to properly settle the island. 

Their big break came this July: Niko Omilana – a British YouTuber with 7.3M subscribers – came to Liberland and made a video entitled “SNEAKING Into a BANNED Country.” While trying to plant a flag on the island, he got into a boat chase with Croatian police. They eventually caught him and beat him up – on camera.

The video went viral, racking up 8M views and making the Croatian police look like thugs. The bad PR reportedly led Croatia’s government to tell the police to take a lighter hand in policing Liberland, which led Vit to declare that its borders were open. Liberlanders who had been waiting years for their chance to settle came to the island. 

“Who or what was in Liberland before August?” I asked one of the Liberland officials.

“Nothing. We had, let’s say, five people on a boat in the river.”

After the YouTube fiasco, though, Liberlanders began flocking to the island in a rush of excitement. For the first time, they built structures: A school, a restaurant, homes. By September, though, it had become too much of a nuisance. While the government didn’t want to get its hands dirty, a forestry company showed up on the island, destroyed the structures, and confiscated Liberland’s property. 

The Liberlanders speak of that raid’s date – September 21 – as an American would 9/11. 

But why are these people settling this deserted island in the middle of the Danube? And who are they? They will be the subject of Monday’s story.

The First Chauvinist

Everyday we take a deep dive into an interesting story, place, or person. Subscribers get full access.

Merriam-Webster defines a chauvinist as somebody with “undue partiality or attachment to a group or place to which one belongs or has belonged.” It is alternatively defined as “excessive or blind patriotism.”

Per popular legend, the term originates from a French soldier named Nicolas Chauvin.

After leading several successful military campaigns, Napoleon Bonaparte seized power in a 1799 coup and crowned himself Emperor of the French.

He led France to further military victories across Europe, establishing France as the continent’s premier superpower. In the process, he helped cultivate a French national identity that endures to this day.

As legend has it, one of Napoleon’s fiercest supporters was a regular foot-soldier named Nicolas Chauvin.

Born in France in 1780, he enlisted in the army at age 18 and served in many of Napoleon’s campaigns throughout Europe. He is said to have been wounded 17 times, leading to his disfigurement and disability.

Despite the personal sacrifices he made for France, Chauvin retained a fierce loyalty to Napoleon, who is said to have personally gifted Chauvin a Sabre of Honor and a lifelong pension. Chauvin’s devotion to Napoleon persisted even after the leader was defeated and sent into exile.

Many historians believe that Chauvin never really existed, or that if he did, his story was embellished for political reasons.

Nonetheless, through plays, books, poems, and other forms of media, his last name became synonymous with patriotic fervor, giving birth to the word “chauvinist.”

Today, the term refers to people with blind devotion to an identity or cause.

Reply to this email to let us know what you think!

The First Chauvinist

Everyday we take a deep dive into an interesting story, place, or person. Subscribers get full access.

Merriam-Webster defines a chauvinist as somebody with “undue partiality or attachment to a group or place to which one belongs or has belonged.” It is alternatively defined as “excessive or blind patriotism.”

Per popular legend, the term originates from a French soldier named Nicolas Chauvin.

After leading several successful military campaigns, Napoleon Bonaparte seized power in a 1799 coup and crowned himself Emperor of the French.

He led France to further military victories across Europe, establishing France as the continent’s premier superpower. In the process, he helped cultivate a French national identity that endures to this day.

As legend has it, one of Napoleon’s fiercest supporters was a regular footsoldier named Nicolas Chauvin.

The rest of this story is for subscribers only.

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20 Questions

As is Roca tradition, every Friday we ask our readers 20 questions or polls and include the answers the following Friday. Let us know your thoughts!

20 questions logo

In honor of our first "Debate of the Week," we will be asking simple "This or That?" questions that may not require as much thought as something like "Is technology progressing too quickly? Who should set the pace?" Then again.... maybe some of these will be more controversial. 

Answer those here! Have a great weekend and thanks again!

Last Week’s 20 questions:

Last week, we asked you to crown the comedian by choosing which famous comedian would “smash” or “pass”. Here is the Roca breakdown per prompt:





Dave Chapelle




Shane Gillis




Jerry Seinfeld




Chris Rock




Chris Farley




Ricky Gervais




Bill Burr




Rodney Dangerfield




Richard Pryor




George Carlin




John Mulaney




Roseanne Barr




Jim Gaffigan




Norm Macdonald




Theo Von




Joan Rivers




Louis C.K.




Pete Davidson




Steve Martin




Lewis Black




Kevin Hart




Final Thoughts

We hope you had great weeks. We’re continuing to work on this newsletter and ensure it’s the best there is. We’ll be back next week with some more tweaks and dispatches from Liberland.

See you on Monday, and don’t forget those 20 Questions!

–Max, Max, Jen, and Alex